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8 Non-Tour Golf Balls Even Good Golfers Could Happily Play
While some golfers are always on the lookout for the best cheap golf balls, many others have their eyes set firmly on the best golf balls played by the world’s top golfers, which offer the best all-round performance. There is a problem, though – these balls are pretty expensive, especially if your game is a little off and you’re losing a few every round. Most of us know how that feels!
Why this article now when some people are always looking to reduce costs for a variety of reasons, whether new mortgage, new family or other changes in life or work circumstances? Well, right now in the UK and elsewhere people are staring at some pretty major cost-of-living increases, most significantly in the UK the biggest rises in energy prices in living memory. For some golfers, something may have to give, and that could mean economising on their golf ball choices.
If you only ever play the best premium golf balls, then this article is probably not for you (one Golf Monthly writer, for example, said he would still play a tour ball regardless of cost to retain the very best in all-round performance). But if you’re having to take a good look at your personal or family finances, it might be for you.
To clarify the headline, by ‘good golfers’ we mean the single-figure handicappers who make up a small percentage of the golfing population. And while we are obviously excluding the cream of the cream, such as the Titleist Pro V1 and Callaway Chrome Soft models played widely on the world’s tours, many golf balls have the word ‘tour’ in their name even if never or hardly ever played on tour – e.g., the TaylorMade Tour Response or Srixon Q Star Tour. So, you will still see the word ‘tour’ in some of the models featured.
Another wise strategy put forward by a Golf Monthly staffer was looking out for tour ball upgrades as there might then be deals to be had on the version being phased out, depending on how much stock is still floating around on retail shelves or in warehouses. So, certainly keep an eye out for the best golf ball deals as they will often feature tempting prices on previous-generation premium balls.
Yes, you could just go down the second-hand or lake ball route as we golfers do use and lose a lot of golf balls - ebay and other sites are awash with attractively priced second-hand premium balls. But if you still want to play new balls, what other options are available that offer good enough all-round performance for some good golfers to feel it’s a minor compromise worth making?
Perhaps the key consideration is a soft cover material as that will help to retain the key elements of feel and control that better players typically crave close to the green. Urethane has long been the tour ball cover of choice, so with that in mind, all our alternative suggestions here feature a soft urethane cover.
More and more of the best mid-price golf balls now feature urethane covers and multi-layer constructions taking their performance much closer to that of tour models. Sometimes they target those not blessed with the swing speeds certain tour models really require while still providing plenty of feel and control. Check out potential cost savings, though, as the difference between these models and tour models varies from brand to brand (e.g., only £5 difference a dozen in Srixon’s golf ball range but £10 in Titleist’s golf ball range).
New mid-price super-breed
A great offering pitched between Pro V1 and the Titleist Tour Soft, which seems to possess no weaknesses and which some may struggle to tell apart from the Pro V1. Indeed, it may actually feel too soft to some, although others will see that as a blessing. You may well find you get a little more distance and a higher flight on iron shots, too, without giving anything away off the tee. All this for £10 a dozen less than the Pro V1.
- Read our full Titleist Tour Speed ball review
This ball excels in the spin and feel departments. In tests with the new fourth-generation model, the spin generated on both 50- and 100-yard pitches was excellent, right up there with more expensive tour-played balls. This, combined with a high launch and flight, adds up to excellent stopping power. It’s targeted at moderate sub-tour swings speeds (75+ mph rather than 90mph+ for the Z Star models), but there is a chance that at slower swing speeds, its lower spin on full shots may result in a lower flight. Just a £5 a dozen saving compared to Z Star.
- Read our full Srixon Q-Star Tour 2022 ball review
An excellent performer on test at £10 a dozen less than the TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x golf balls. Its particular area of expertise is greenside spin and control, with its performance there encouraging confident, even aggressive, chipping. In the longer game, it’s probably most effective for those with above average swing speeds. A new version is set to launch in March 2022.
- Read our full TaylorMade Tour Response ball review
A strong performer in the long game offering a little more spin and a lower launch than the TaylorMade Tour Response, for example, equating to a little more distance off the tee and a similar distance with a mid-iron. Closer to the green, although it has a lovely soft feel, it doesn’t spin as much as tour models so may suit those who like their chips to run out a little more than those who prefer the checking chip. Lovely soft feel off the putter face.
- Read our full Wilson Triad ball review
Less well-known brands
This German brand offers a comprehensive ball line-up, with discounts for bulk purchase an added bonus to the performance on offer. This decent-performing Vice Pro model, for example, may be nearly £40 for a single dozen but that comes down by nearly 20% if you’re prepared to buy five dozen at a time (£32.28). It may be a fraction down in distance off the tee compared to tour balls but is a great performer with irons and wedges, with a soft feel and lots of action on well-struck pitches and chips.
- Read our full Vice Pro ball review
The Snell brand is the brainchild of Dean Snell, who once worked for two of golf’s premier ball brands. The goal is tour-calibre performance at a lower price. To give you an idea, the MTB-X is Snell's equivalent to the Pro V1x in Titleist’s range and offers a firmer feel, with distance foremost in mind while still retaining decent short-game feel and control via its urethane cover. Strong performance in the wind may be of particular interest to those who play by the sea or on top of a hill!
- Read our full Snell MTB-X ball review
A urethane-covered ball available at just £34 for two dozen (yes, two dozen) clearly catches the eye, and this ball looks and feels like a premium product. You will need to accept that you’ll be giving away a little yardage off the tee and on full shots on account of its high-spin properties from tee to green. But around and on the greens, it really comes into its own. Possibly a choice between a few extra yards and significant savings!
- Read our full Costco Kirkland Signature ball review
Our final suggestion is another urethane-covered three-piece ball for under £25 a dozen. Inesis, the golf brand of French sports retailer, Decathlon, has a number of eye-catching products including this ball. It looks and feels both well-made and soft, meaning excellent spin control around and into the greens. It may, however, spin a little too much for some off the tee with too low a flight, thus costing them a little distance. For others, a little extra spin may be a good thing.
- Read our full Decathlon Inesis Tour 900 ball review
So, there we are – eight golf balls offering good all-round performance at a lower price than the tour favourites. Some may excel a little more in certain departments than others, but only you can decide what’s most important to you, and in which areas you might be happy to make small compromises for the sake of saving some money.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
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